WOMAN'S LIFE 153
the Ming and Manchu Periods, Ch'inhuaiho, the dirty creek
in front of the Confucian Temple at Nanking, was the scene of many a love romance. The proximity to the Confucian Temple was appropriate and logical, because it was the place of the official examinations where scholars gathered for the examinations and celebrated their successes or consoled their failures in the company of women. To this day some editors of small papers still frankly detail their adventures in sing-song houses, and poets and scholars have written so profusely about the sing-song tradition that the name of Ch'in-huaiho has been intimately associated with Chinese literary history.
It is impossible to exaggerate the romantic, literary, musical, and political importance of the courtesan in China. Because men thought It improper for decent family girls to handle musical instruments, which were dangerous to their virtue, or to have too much literary learning, which was equally subversive of their morality, and but rarely encouraged painting and poetry for them, they did not, on that account, cease to desire female company of the artistic and literary type. The sing-song girls cultivated these things because they did not need ignorance as a bulwark of their virtue. So the scholars all went to Ch'inhuaiho. There in the summer night, when darkness had transformed the dirty creek into a Venetian canal, they would sit in a house-boat and listen to the singing of love ditties by girls in the neighbouring "lantern boats" passing up and down.
In this atmosphere scholars sought for those hetaeras who could distinguish themselves from the rest either in poetry, music, painting or witty repartee. Of such accomplished and well-known hetaeras who flourished especially at the end of the Ming Period, perhaps the one best loved by all was Tung Hsiaowan, who became the mistress of Mao Pichiang. To the T'ang Dynasty belonged Su Hsiaohsiao, whose tomb by the side of the West Lake has become the object of pilgrimage of every scholar tourist for ages. Not a few were closely connected with the political destinies of the nation, as in the case of Ch'en Yuanytian, the beloved mistress of General Wu Sankwei. Her capture by Li Tzuch'eng during the latter's conquest of Peking